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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

Mohun Bagan, East Bengal play bland, barren Kolkata League derby

East Bengal midfield looked unorganised especially in the first-half but their defence manned by Marti Crespi did not give any chance to their arch-rivals to come out with a point.

football Updated: Sep 01, 2019 21:02 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Suhair VP (20) of Mohun Bagan and Marti Crepsi (21) of East Bengal in action.
Suhair VP (20) of Mohun Bagan and Marti Crepsi (21) of East Bengal in action.(Samir Jana / HT)
         

There was a Ronaldo in red and yellow and a Romario in maroon and green but if Mohun Bagan and East Bengal played out a draw that was goalless and --- for most parts of this Kolkata league derby --- soulless, it was because both eschewed the risk involved in trying to get one over the other early in the season.

“Maybe the fans expected but this game arrived too early,” said East Bengal’s Spanish coach Alejandro Menendez.

It was a comment that summed up East Bengal’s approach to the game that never lived up to the atmosphere created by approximately 60,000 split equally on the terraces of the Salt Lake stadium here on Sunday.

Early proof of that came in East Bengal opting to give new Spaniard Marcos Jiminez 70 minutes --- he made a big effort and will improve as he gets more training sessions, said Menendez --- with Ronaldo Oliviera as his partner in the front third instead of in-form attackers Jaime Santos and Bidyasagar Singh.

If it still ensured that Menendez was unbeaten in three Kolkata derbies, it was because, not for the first time in the season, Mohun Bagan were not clinical in front of goal.

VP Suhair, whose brace in extra-time took Mohun Bagan to the Durand Cup final, failed to capitalise on a momentary lapse of reason in the East Bengal defence in the 41st minute. Latching on to a long clearance, the striker from Kerala, who once received a phone call from IM Vijayan for scoring a hattrick in a Kolkata league match for East Bengal, hurried his shot from a one-on-one situation leaving East Bengal goalie Lalthuammawia Ralte with an easy collection.

On the hour mark, Suhair couldn’t arrive in time to meet an Ashutosh Mehta delivery from right and missed being the man who would have given Mohun Bagan their first win against East Bengal since Dipanda Dicka capped a collective performance with a brace on January 21, 2018.

“Suhair was a nightmare for East Bengal’s defence. He worked very hard. It is true the strikers are remembered for goals and we are working at being more effective in front in training but creating chances is the first step to scoring and I am happy we are doing that,” said Mohun Bagan coach Kibu Vicuna.

Like his compatriot in the East Bengal technical area, Vicuna opted to rest striker Salva Chamorro and try to make the midfield defensively solid by playing Fran Gonzalez. It worked with Mohun Bagan looking more organised on two-thirds of the pitch.

It also meant that barring a 64th minute shot from close by Ronaldo, off a Pintu Mahata pass played across goal after Jiminez found him on the right, East Bengal didn’t give Mohun Bagan goalie Debjit Majumder much to do.

Not that Ralte had a busy afternoon because Mohun Bagan also played with the handbrake on. Gonzalez could have tested him had he kept an early header on target from Joseba Beitias’s free-kick as could have substitute Alexander Romario Jesuraj had he attacked a delivery late in the game.

“We had better situations to score and I think 1-0 in our favour would have been a fair result,” said Vicuna.

After four games each, defending champions Mohun Bagan have five points and East Bengal seven.